Mosul fell under Islamic State (ISIS) control on 10th of June 2014, after ISIS fighters entered through the desert from Syria. At this time nearly 30,000 Iraqi soldiers left their weapons and deserted the city, leaving Mosul in the hands of ISIS fighters. ISIS took control of the airport, the Nineveh governorate offices, and the offices of some of the television channels. They then released nearly 1,000 inmates from the central prison. The organisation then committed numerous crimes, ranging from vandalism to murder.
After three days of ISIS dominance in Mosul, a new resistance force was formed. It was called the Popular Mobilization Forces, consisting mostly of Shi’a militias and was sanctioned by the Marja’ Ali Sistani’s fatwa. This syndicate was needed because of the weakness of Iraq’s government forces.
After placing Mosul under its authority, IS, between June 2014 and June 2015, ran an extensive expansion campaign slowly imposing its influence on other regions in Iraq, most notably Tikrit, Baiji and Ramadi. ISIS, in June 2014, established complete dominion over Tikrit, the administrative centre of the Saladdin Governorate, and hometown of Saddam Hussein. However, in March 2015 IS was driven out of the city by a predominantly Shi’a military force, without American air support, handing a symbolic yet strategic victory to the Iraqi government. Baiji, where the largest oil refinery is located, remained under IS rule from June 2014 until October 2015. Finally, IS achieved complete control over Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province, in May 2015. By January 2016 and after 800+ coalition-led airstrikes most of the city was re-seized but in the process reduced much of it to rubble.
In that same decisive period (between June 2014 and June 2015), many towns and cities in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province became established bases from which suicide bombers and other types of assailants could attack Iraqi forces. These organised military operations contributed to the rapid advancement of the state, which at one point extended their frontline dangerously close to the centre of Baghdad, inciting fear in the hearts of Iraqis, particularly Shi’a. More recently, ISIS has confirmed its usage of new defensive weaponry such as chemical weapons. They have also ignited certain petroleum and gas wells to reduce visibility for aircrafts affiliated with the Iraqi forces.
One of the most heinous acts committed by Daesh was the Speicher massacre in Salahaddin Governorate, where nearly 1,700 members of Iraq’s forces fell victim. Sadly the humanitarian consequences of events such as this are still impacting day-to-day life in Mosul as bodies are continually found in the Tigris river.
Currently, and after a long wait, commanders of the Operation Fatah forces have proclaimed that now is the time for the liberation of Mosul. American forces have been contributing to the operation by providing intelligence and air support. Since there are nearly two million Iraqis, and approximately 10,000 members of ISIS still living within the parameters of the city, the operation to liberate Mosul will take some time. Mosul is ISIS’ last major stronghold in Iraq and losing control would leave them cornered.
After Operation Fatah officially commenced, the US emphasised the importance of creating safe routes to facilitate the evacuation of Mosul, to reduce the number of human casualties wherever possible. Some reports draw attention to the discrepancy between the current extra capacity of inhabitable refugee camps (60,000) and the total number of Iraqi citizens likely to be displaced, which is expected to reach 200,000.
Compassion and mercy are virtues that are seemingly non-existent in the hearts of ISIS fighters. Members of the organisation have detained a further 3,200 Yazidi women from Mosul, many of whom were sexually exploited whilst others were sold in the black market. These depraved acts are justified under the religious pretence of “Sexual Jihad”, which is a concept that is disavowed in its entirety by traditional Islam. Yazidis have not only suffered in ISIS-controlled Mosul, they were also oppressed in the city of Sinjar.
ISIS, however, is not only the only barrier preventing the development of Iraq. Tensions have been rising between the different factions in the Iraq military as they prepared to engage in the battle for Mosul. The difference in opinion over Peshmerga force participation in the fight for Mosul prompted an intervention by the United States of America in September 2016, in an effort to prevent escalation to violence. Another source of much of the inter-military discord is the fundamental military differences between Baghdad and Erbil regarding participation of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The PMF wanted to forcibly impose their own leadership over the whole syndicate, they also wanted to autocratically manage the whole military operation.
How can peace and tranquillity finally pervade Iraq if the military forces are waging war between each other? The military’s sole purpose is to unite its people and work together, forgoing any sectarian divisions for the sake of the country’s security! What is occurring in Iraq is extraordinary, but who will lend a helping hand to the innocent Iraqi civilians? Who will protect them? In my opinion, the military forces will never be able to serve deprived Iraqis if individual factions continue to be preoccupied with war between themselves.
Officially ISIS name themselves the Islamic State, but where are the Islamic values in the acts they commit? Does our religion order us to slay innocents? Has your deity decreed the exploitation and selling of women acceptable? What version of Islam do you cite? Does Islam command the burning of men? We are sadly reminded of the unfortunate death of Mu’ath Kisasaba, who was burned alive. Our religion is the religion of mercy and peace, and it commands us to love, forgive and become steeped in compassion. Islam is a religion of justice and humility, of peace and pacifism, of love and piety. Islamic law firmly guides a human towards benevolent behaviour and good morals, to distance one’s life from any aggression, and to ensure that all humans live a life of pride and dignity. Indeed, this is Islam, this is what the non-Muslim citizens of the world should understand! These monsters and executioners are anything but Muslims. It would not be unfair to say that they are not affiliated with any religion, since no religion in the world advocates mass murder and ethnic cleansing.
There are numerous passages from the Qu’ran that clearly prohibit the killing of innocents. For example: “We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely” [5:32]. Since the Qu’ran is the foundation upon which Islamic belief is built, actions taken by ISIS are blasphemous. The prophet was once documented saying: “if people of the sky and people of the land conspired for the blood of a believer, then will God will verily punish them with hellfire”, he also asserted that: “whoever kills a man from the dhimmis (the protected non-muslims), he will never find the winds of paradise”.
Those who carry out suicide attacks should not be named martyrs, neither should they expect paradise in the afterlife because committing suicide is a grave sin in Islam, it is forbidden and disallowed: “And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right” [17:33] Speeches from the Prophet’s discourse also corroborate this: “whoever kills himself using steel, will have steel in his hand directed towards his stomach, whilst residing in hellfire for ever. Whoever drinks poison to kill himself will sip it for eternity in hellfire. Whoever jumps from a mountain to his death will continue to fall in hellfire for eternity.”. These are all religiously derived evidence from the fundamental foundations of Islam, the Qu’ran and the Sunnah (teachings of the prophet). Together they provide irrefutable and undebatable evidence of Islam, as a religion, disavowing the monstrous Islamic State Ideology. What right do they have to address themselves using the name of Islam?
The executioners of ISIS do not represent Islam, nor any other religion. They seek to create hatred between religions and feed off divisions in society. Muslims have become feared, and are commonly seen as the enemy, which can be seen in the increase in levels of hate speech against Islam. This ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude inadvertently benefits extremist groups. We, from all nationalities, cultures and religions should trust each other and stand up to these ultimately inhumane organisations. It is now time to cleanse the world from hatred and spread love and peace.